The Yongsan Tragedy, Are We Without Responsibility? A Look at the Movie: ‘Two Doors’
“They could also have been making demands that were unreasonable. However, should the country be allowed to suppress citizens in this manner just because they make unreasonable demands?” The first Sunday in the second half of 2012…
I watched a documentary film called ‘Two Doors’ in a small theatre called ‘Indie Space’. The quote was said by the human rights activist Mr. Park-jin in the movie and will remain with me forever. ‘Two Doors’ is a movie about an incident that occurred in Yongsan on January 20th, 2009. It was the beginning of the suppression of 25 citizens, evictees from the Yongsan Zone 4 redevelopment project, who had climbed to the roof of the Namildang Building. The incident occurred just as winter was setting in: freezing water cannons and firebombs were used in the ‘war that wasn’t a war’ which ended in the deaths of one Special Forces policeman and five evictees.
If I was mayor, I would have stood in the way, obstructing the police to prevent the forced eviction. I would not have used the water cannon, but would instead have demanded everybody to evacuate. There are of course actions which can be taken to make a legal forced eviction possible. Unfortunately, there are also things which you aren’t able to do as mayor. Had the management disposal process been already under way and had the union given construction permission, then the eviction would have been outside the jurisdiction of the Seoul mayor, a matter for the borough office and company to decide. However, during my term in office I will make sure that there will be no more forced evictions. Even if I am under pressure from the borough office and police, there will be no more forced evictions. The Yongsan tragedy was an incident demanding the introspection of our citizens. Why were there so many ‘new towns’ to the point where the election was referred to as the ‘new town election’? Must we go back in time when the promise of a new town resulted in getting elected? In addition, isn’t the greed of someone who isn’t satisfied with the one house which they have worked hard for apparent? Believing that estate agents can do no wrong and getting tangled up in the desire for more in spite of speculation? Isn’t it just a little selfish of us to think thoughts such as ‘if you don’t like it, then it’s your fault for not being rich’, and ‘isn’t the house owner the only one with any power, and the tenant should just quit and get out’?
Looking at it from this viewpoint, I’m not sure if we aren’t all responsible bystanders in the Yongsan tragedy. In the beginning of the year, I went to Roppongi Hills in Tokyo as part of a business trip to Japan, and saw many positive methods used by redevelopment companies which can serve as a lesson to us. Discussion meetings have been open to over 400 residents for 17 years, and for development to be given the ‘go-ahead,’ there has to be 100% civil agreement. Eviction is not implemented and is put off until the last resident has moved, and during this process, force or violence is absolutely prohibited. This is a process that would have undoubtedly caused concern and problems for the Roppongi Hills redevelopment companies, but by examining this process, we can see that it is superior in terms of value and in setting a new and different standard. I’m repeating myself here but I’ll say it one more time: there will be no more forced evictions during my term. The reason is the same one that applies to the redevelopment companies as it does many aspects of the Seoul administration. Direction is a much more important commodity than speed.